Samsung Galaxy S, pt.2 – Firmware Update & Lagfix

Short disclaimer: Flashing your phone may be illegal, immoral and may cause damage to your phone and/or soul. I take no responsibility for any actions you may or may not take. Proceed with caution, and remember, i don’t care if you brick your phone; even though that should be pretty hard to do!

So time for part two.

As of August 2010, The Samsung Galaxy S (European Model) ships with Android 2.1, also known as Eclaire. While it’s a pretty stable version of Android, where everything works sort of, it’s not very fast or optimized. 2.2 or Froyo, will bring out the heat, and make this into the fastest device on the market.

Want to acchieve this speed boost right now? Thought so. You can do it, with Android 2.1, by doing a few simple hacks:  Upgrade to a later build (unofficial), and install the One-Click Lagfix. I’ll try to explain both:

– The newer build of 2.1 (currently JM6 is the name assigned to the latest firmware) will improve some functionality, mostly not related to speed, but for instance GPS functionality. The builds are unofficial and come from..various sources. I won’t link to them here, as i’m unsure of their legality, but i can say that they work just fine. Paranoid users might want to skip this, as this would be the perfect slot to slide in malware or other nasties to peoples phones.

– The lagfix adresses one of the more serious issues with 2.1, namely performance. The Galaxy S phone uses an RFS filesystem on the internal flash memory, which is far from perfect or optimized for such a platform. The problem is visible as general sluggishnes, for instance while flipping from page to page, or doing things in quick succession. The lagfix creates an ext2 filesystem within a file inside the internal memory, and places system files there, which is clearly visible as a highly increased performance. No more sluggishness anywhere. Synthetic benchmarks, such as Quadrant show an increase of over 1000 points. But subjective usage improvements are, of course, most important. The lagfix used to be much more complicated (while not impossible) but is now available as an application in the Android Market, and offers “One-click” installing.

Firmware Update

Updating the firmware is not an easy process for JoeBob69, but for someone who has played with gadgets and computers for a while, it’s no trouble at all. The things you need to start updating your firmware are:

  1. An installation of Microsoft Windows (i have not tried this through wine, but it might work
  2. Samsung Kies, or just the driver for the phone. When you connect your phone with the provided  MicroUSB cable, Windows should detect the phone. This isn’t specifically needed for this phase, but you will need it for the lagfix.
  3. Odin 1.0. This is the actual firmware flashing program.
  4. The correct .pit file, which for the Galaxy S with 2.1 Android is the s1_odin_20100512.pit. Again, i won’t link to it, you can find it through google
  5. The firmware you want to install. The fastest one right now seems to be the 2.1 build JM5. The 2.2 builds are as of this time not yet good choices, and usually slow. Firmware packages need to contain three files (two in some cases, but i won’t go in on that issue here): CSC, Phone and Modem. They can be of different versions internally, for instance, my phone now has a JM6 Phone firmware, a JM1 modem and a JM3 CSC package.

Start out by setting your phone in download mode.

  1. Make any necessary backups. Your contacts, SMS messages and Emails will not survive. Stuff under /sdcard on the phone will most likely survive (pictures, media, etc.), but take precautions here. Smart people sync their stuff elsewhere, like Google. They already have everything they need about you, so don’t worry.
  2. Shut down the phone, and if you like, remove the sim card and any microSD card you might have inserted.
  3. Press down the Home key and the Volume Down button, then the power button.
  4. Phone should start to a black and yellow “Download” mode, with the classic Android mascot
  5. Start up Odin on your PC, but DO NOT hook up your phone yet.
  6. In Odin, select your pit file, and on the left side, check all three boxes (Re-partition, Auto-Reboot and F. Reset Time)
  7. At this point, hook up your phone, and wait for Odin to detect it. The status box should read “Device added!” or similar.
  8. Hit Start on the right side. Wait for the phone to reboot, and Odin reports PASS with green background.
  9. Remove the battery and disconnect the phone. Boot it up to Download-mode again, but don’t hook it up to your PC yet.
  10. Restart Odin, and this time don’t add the .pit file. Instead add the three firmware packages under Phone, Modem and CSC. They should be individual .tar packages. Don’t try to open them.
  11. Remove the checkmark from Re-partition, on the left, but leave the other two.
  12. Connect your phone and wait for it to be picked up by Odin.
  13. Hit Start, and wait for it to go to PASS, again.

Depending on the firmware you may have downloaded, you may get a funky language on your first boot. You can fix it with the following “Blind-Guide”:

  1. In the Home-screen, hit the left function key to get the menu up.
  2. Select Settings, which is the Gear-icon, in the bottom right corner of the menu.
  3. Select Locale and text, the icon is a grey box, with the capital letter A inside.
  4. Hit Select Local. This is the top item in the menu.
  5. You should now find your locale from the list.

You may also need to restore your backups, and your APN settings for mobile broadband and MMS. Follow operator directives for these, as they will probably be lost during the firmware update. Android 2.2 will fix this, allowing you to do updates Over the Air, without losing your stuff.

Lagfix

The lagfix, which is a must for any Samsung Galaxy S owner, has now been made very simple. Open up market, and search for Samsung Galaxy S. You should see the One Click Lagfix. Download and install. Start it up, and install ext2 tools, and then the lagfix. On-screen instructions are pretty self explanatory. You can also do some kind of rooting here, but i haven’t tried the functions. Reboot when asked or just let it do its thing.

What happens is, you’ll get an ext2 file system on a part of your internal memory (you can also use a fast microSD card, which, i’m told, improves performance even more), and stuff will be run from that. This is much faster, and i am sure you’ll notice the difference.

Can i break something?

Well, it’s unlikely. You can use Odin in every scenario i’ve read about to restore a working firmware on your phone. I have read of a few isolated cases where things went awry, but were still fixable through some hacks.

Everything described here should be pretty safe, but again, i’m not liable if you brick your phone. Proceed with caution and don’t forget common sense.

Benchmarking

A standard 2.1 off the shelf Galaxy S should get about 900 points in Quadrant ( a benchmark application you can find in the Market). After the firmware upgrade and lagfix, i’m getting around 2100 points. This is of course synthetic stuff, measuring CPU, I/O and Graphics performance. Quadrant Pro will show you more details about how the points are distributed and calculated. It seems to be very I/O focused, as the filesystem fix brings an improvement of over 1000 points.

On the other hand, you’ll be so pleased with your smooth flowing UI that you won’t really care.

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